Barack Obama called Paterno family

Updated: January 24, 2012, 10:46 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Joe Paterno's family said Monday the legendary football coach will get a two-day viewing and a public memorial this week on the Penn State campus, two months after the university summarily fired him over the phone.

The family gave no details on who might be invited or asked to speak at the memorial Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center, which can hold 16,000 people. Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the specifics were still being worked out with the Paternos.

But many alumni and students say Paterno was treated shabbily by the Board of Trustees in November, and trustees and other members of the administration might not be made to feel welcome at the memorial for the 85-year-old coach, who died Sunday of lung cancer.

"I don't think it's going to be heavily laden with administration and trustees," said trustee Linda Strumpf, who lives in New York and will not attend. "This is something the family is putting together and not the university. I don't think the university wants to be in a position to tell them what a memorial service looks like."

But trustee Al Clemens said he will be there to honor a man he described as a good friend.

"This is really a family thing, and so we're just going to go as individuals," Clemens said. "Joe's a great guy. No matter what the situation was in the last two months, it doesn't take away from what he's done through history for so many people. He's just been tremendous."

The viewing will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at a campus spiritual center, followed by a private funeral Wednesday afternoon. The public memorial at the Jordan Center, the university's basketball arena, is expected to draw thousands.

President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the Paterno family, speaking with Paterno's wife, Sue, and son, Jay, on Monday to express his condolences.

The White House says the president recalled fond memories of when he first met Coach Paterno and said he and first lady Michelle Obama would keep the Paterno family in their prayers.

Pennslyvania Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday ordered all state flags at the state Capitol and at state facilities to fly at half-staff through sunset on Thursday in Paterno's honor. And state lawmakers held moments of silence in their chambers Monday in Paterno's honor.

On Monday, Paterno's former players continued to pay tribute to their mentor.

Matt Millen, an ESPN NFL and college football analyst who played for Paterno at Penn State, told ESPN Radio's "The Herd" that the difficult end of Paterno's tenure doesn't diminish his greater legacy.

"It doesn't mean that despite your best efforts and despite all your experience in a storied career, in a storied life, that you don't make a decision that in his own words, you wish you would have done more," Millen said Monday. "There's some flaws within 50 years as well, but the biggest piece of it is all good, and it has impacted many, many lives."

Millen told "The Herd" that when he spoke with Paterno about a month ago, Paterno wasn't preoccupied with the fact he was no longer coaching.

"He didn't even talk about not coaching. His concern was for others. His concern was how it did affect the program ... all he talked about was the kids, the children, the alleged abuse victims," Millen told ESPN Radio. "That broke his heart. He just couldn't wrap his mind around how that whole thing could even happen and really what it is, even. It was hard for him to get his mind around that."

"There are only a few people who make a real difference in the world and those are rare people. And Joe Paterno was a rare person," Millen added.

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, who lettered under Paterno in 1979 and 1981, said Paterno's accompishments will never be matched.

"What he was most proud of though was not what we accomplished, but how we accomplished it -- 'success with honor' was his phrase for it," Munchak said in a prepared statement. "He instilled a spirit in each of us that we were part of something bigger than ourselves and upholding the Penn State tradition. The things I learned at Penn State are still with me today and they have made me a better person and a better coach."

Miami coach Al Golden, who played and served as an assistant under Paterno at Penn State, said the values Paterno instilled in his players and coaches "will never be diminished."

"They are manifested in our leadership, character, class and dedication to improving the lives of others in the classroom, workforce and community. They are distinctly evident in the way we raise our children and the type of husbands and fathers we have grown to be. I am forever grateful for the impact that Joseph Vincent Paterno has made on my life," Golden said.

Paterno was fired Nov. 9 after he was criticized over his handling of child sex-abuse allegations leveled against former assistant Jerry Sandusky in 2002. Pennsylvania's state police commissioner said that in not going to the police, Paterno may have met his legal duty but not his moral one.

Bitterness over Paterno's removal has turned up in many forms, from online postings to a note placed next to Paterno's statue at the football stadium blaming the trustees for his death. A newspaper headline that read "FIRED" was crossed out and made to read, "Killed by Trustees." Lanny Davis, lawyer for the board, said threats have been made against the trustees.

Clemens said the board will later consider more lasting tributes to Paterno, including scholarships in his name. Because of his generosity to the school, his family name is already on the library and a spiritual center.

There has also been a movement over the past few years to change the name of Beaver Stadium, the football team's home field, to Joe Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium. Monday, the man behind it, Warren W. Armstrong, a 1960 graduate and retired Allentown advertising executive, said he would renew those efforts. Some are suggesting renaming the street leading to the stadium Paterno Way.

A family spokesman said the Paternos' focus this week is on the viewing and funeral plans and they do want to weigh in on any ideas for a permanent memorial right now. But "I would say the family would welcome a conversation on that," Dan McGinn said.

At a wrestling match Sunday between Iowa and Penn State at Rec Hall on Penn State's campus, fans were asked to observe a moment of silence. The crowd of more than 6,500 then gave a 30-second standing ovation while an image of Paterno flashed on two video boards.

At a women's basketball game Sunday, Penn State players wore a black strap on their shoulders in memory of Paterno.

A moment of silence was also observed before the Nittany Lions men's basketball team's 73-54 loss at Indiana.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.